2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Browns looking to climb from AFC North cellar

By TOM WITHERS - AP Sports Writer
    2013-08-27 14:26

CLEVELAND (AP) - For his entire pro career, Joe Thomas has known nothing but change, misery and losing.

Welcome to Cleveland.

Oh, sure, he's made six straight Pro Bowls with the Browns, earning the reliable and durable left tackle a yearly trip to Hawaii. Thomas, though, would trade all those vacations for one visit to the postseason.

``I want to go the playoffs,'' Thomas said earlier this summer. ``It's no fun playing in the NFL when you're going 4-12 every year. It's just not, it's drudgery.''

Those dreary days could be over.

With a first-year head coach who understands Cleveland's passion, more experienced players and a committed owner in Jimmy Haslam, the Browns appear to be on the verge of turning their fortunes. It's been six years since they had a winning record, and 11 since their last playoff appearance, but Thomas believes the Browns are poised to contend.

And when he closes his eyes, Thomas envisions a wintry day in January near Lake Erie when football, the way it once was in Cleveland, is back.

``I think about the day of me running out of the tunnel for a home playoff game, that's my dream,'' he said. ``That's why I show up every day.''

If the Browns are indeed going to improve, they must gain ground in the rugged AFC North. Cleveland is just 16-50 inside one of the league's toughest divisions and only 5-25 in the past five years.

Here's are five things to watch as Cleveland enters the 2013 season:

CHUD'S IN CHARGE: Like so many kids growing up in Ohio, Rob Chudzinski had his heart broken by the Browns. It's his job to try and fix a few. Cleveland's offensive coordinator in 2007 - when the Browns went 10-6 - Chudzinski takes over the team he rooted for as a youngster and one that has chewed up and spit out coaches at an alarming rate.

Chudzinski, he's ``Chud'' to everyone, is Cleveland's sixth coach since 1999. He spent the past two years as Carolina's offensive coordinator. With the Panthers, he directed a record-breaking offense he hopes to replicate in Cleveland. To assist him, the Browns hired offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive guru Ray Horton, two of the best coordinators on the market with proven track records.

Turner's job is to get the most out of second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has the physical tools and could thrive in an offense designed to his strengths.

RICHARDSON READY TO RUMBLE: His ribs healed and 10 pounds lighter than a year ago, running back Trent Richardson is set for a breakout season - as long as he stays healthy. Richardson rushed for 950 yards as a rookie, when he played more than half the year with two broken ribs.

Richardson lacked the same burst as he had at Alabama, which is part of the reason he slimmed down to 225 pounds. The 23-year-old, who also underwent knee surgery last year, looked terrific in the preseason and credited his improvement to reviewing tapes of how he ran in college and high school. Richardson said it was ``time to get back to the basics.''

In the past, the feature running back in Turner's offense has topped 300 carries, and Richardson is looking forward to doing more ``than running between the tackles'' as he did a year ago.

``I'm looking towards no injury, no broken fingernails, nothing,'' he said. ``I know my whole season is based on being healthy and playing 16 games and hopefully in the playoffs.''

SOUTH IN THE NORTH: Unless they start winning division games, the Browns will stay stuck in the AFC North's basement - their home eight times in 11 years.

Since their return in 1999, the Browns have gone just 16-50 against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati. They've never gone better than 3-3, and that came in their only two winning seasons (2002, 2007) since their expansion rebirth.

The Browns have been competitive inside the division, but losing close games doesn't cut it.

With the Steelers rebuilding, the Ravens losing key contributors from their Super Bowl title team, and the Bengals being, well, the unpredictable Bengals, the Browns could close the gap on their three rivals.

``I think we're making good strides,'' Thomas said. ``But we've got to win games to prove we've made strides.''

WEEDEN'S GROWTH: On a wall inside the Browns' draft room is a list of things the team feels it must do ``On The Path To The Super Bowl.'' Near the top is: ``Have a championship-caliber quarterback.''

Brandon Weeden has this year to show he is one.

Following an up-and-down-and-sideways rookie season, Weeden heads into his second year confident he can lead the Browns back to respectability. He's got the arm, but the Browns just aren't 100 percent certain he has the other intangibles to push them into playoff contention.

Weeden turns 30 in October, so the clock is ticking on both him and the team. The Browns signed veteran Jason Campbell as a backup in case Weeden fails this year and they acquired some extra draft picks in 2014, ammunition in case they have to maneuver to find their future QB.

Weeden won't have his top target for the first two games as wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for failing the NFL's drug policy.

ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK: Cleveland's defense will have moving parts. More precisely, blitzing parts.

Horton has switched the Browns from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, one that puts a premium on pressuring the quarterback. Cleveland restocked its defensive front, signing free agent linebackers Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, end Desmond Bryant and drafting Barkevious Mingo with the No. 6 overall pick.

With the Arizona Cardinals last season, Horton's defense had the NFL's lowest opposing quarterback rating (71.2 percent), ranked second in third-down efficiency (32.9) and interceptions (22) and was third in red-zone defense (44.4).

It's a high-risk, high-reward approach, and if nothing else, it will be fun to watch.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Austin CollieJan 29 03:33a

Free-agent WR Austin Collie (Patriots) signed a contract with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Tom BradyJan 28 12:33p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (illness) admitted that he is currently battling a cold, but he said he expects to be 100% ready for the Super Bowl Sunday, [ More ]

Brandon MebaneJan 27 11:23p

Seattle Seahawks DL Brandon Mebane (hamstring) said Tuesday, Jan. 27, that his hamstring surgery went well and he should be full go for the team's offseason program in April.

Richard ShermanJan 27 11:23p

Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman (elbow) has torn ligaments in his elbow, but he is improving daily and he is no longer receiving treatment for the injury.

LeGarrette BlountJan 27 08:33p

New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount should be a factor in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Feb. 1, in the opinion of Boston Herald writer Karen [ More ]

Adrian PetersonJan 27 07:43p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson was directed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to meet with a league-assigned psychiatrist following Peterson's suspension. The National Football League Players Association is now [ More ]

Rob GronkowskiJan 27 12:23p

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is an offensive weapon that the Seattle Seahawks are focused on shutting down during the Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1. Seahawks head coach [ More ]

Trent RichardsonJan 27 10:43a

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson's one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team voided the guarantee of a $3,184,062 salary in 2015.

Josh GordonJan 26 02:13p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is in Stage Three of an alcohol program, which requires him to be tested for alcohol for a minimum of two years. His failed [ More ]

Rob GronkowskiJan 26 02:03p

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski could cause a problem for the Seattle Seahawks during Super Bowl XLIX, because the Seahawks defense allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends this [ More ]

Earl ThomasJan 26 02:03p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) said he won't miss the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots with a dislocated shoulder, but he also admitted that it won't [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Jan 26 01:52p

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) said he'll need to shut himself down this offseason in order to enter 2015 fully healthy and in great shape. He [ More ]

Josh GordonJan 26 12:33p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon tested positive for alcohol, according to sources, and his failed test will subject him to a possible one-year suspension. Gordon caught 24 passes for [ More ]

Vontaze BurfictJan 26 12:23p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (knee) is recovering from microfracture surgery on his left knee, and the surgeon who operated on him is hoping that he will be at [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Jan 26 11:22a

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) said he played this season with two tears in his right hamstring, which never fully healed.

Josh GordonJan 25 09:12p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon will be under contract through the 2016 season, and he will only be a restricted free agent after that year due to his looming [ More ]

Josh GordonJan 25 04:12p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon has reportedly failed another drug test and will be subject to a one-year banishment, according to multiple league sources.

Earl ThomasJan 23 09:02p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) will play in the Super Bowl, head coach Pete Carroll said Friday, Jan. 23.

Dennis PittaJan 23 04:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) met with some specialists last week, but the team is not expected to have an update on his status for a few weeks, [ More ]

Johnny ManzielJan 23 01:12p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel had a big proponent last year in owner Jimmy Haslam, but Haslam now thinks the team needs a quarterback in order to get their [ More ]

Jimmy GrahamJan 23 10:32a

New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder) said he'll rehabilitate his shoulder injury after the Pro Bowl, but he hasn't made a final decision on surgery. 'It's something we [ More ]

Mark IngramJan 22 06:42p

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram, who will be eligible for free agency this offseason, wants to return to the team next year, and he thinks the interest is [ More ]

Vernon DavisJan 22 06:22p

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis had just two touchdowns in 2014, and they both came in Week 1. He also wasn't targeted at all in the red zone [ More ]

Geno SmithJan 22 05:32p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith has a lot of talent and promise, according to new head coach Todd Bowles. At the same time, Bowles acknowledged that the quarterback [ More ]

Brian HoyerJan 22 04:52p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer could be re-signed this offseason, according to his agent. Hoyer is expected to meet with general manager Ray Farmer and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in the near future.

Johnny ManzielJan 22 02:43p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel will be working with a new offensive coordinator this year in John DeFilippo, but DeFilippo is unsure if the team's quarterback next year is [ More ]

Joe FlaccoJan 22 12:52p

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco will have his fourth difference offensive coordinator in as many years in offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. However, head coach John Harbaugh is confident Flacco [ More ]

Tom BradyJan 22 10:12a

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is now scheduled to speak to the media Thursday, Jan. 22, and he could come under fire due to the report of deflated [ More ]

Vontaze BurfictJan 21 09:03p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (knee) has had knee surgery, head coach Marvin Lewis confirmed Wednesday, Jan. 21. While there has been concern Burfict might have to begin the [ More ]

Mike WallaceJan 21 09:03p

Miami Dolphins WR Mike Wallace's future with the team is unclear. General manager Dennis Hickey would not say Wednesday, Jan. 21, whether Wallace will be back or if his [ More ]

Johnny ManzielJan 21 04:43p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel could benefit from new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, according to Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr. Carr said DeFilippo will do great with Manziel, adding [ More ]

Richard ShermanJan 21 04:23p

Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman (elbow) said he will practice in a brace, but should not have any limitations on gameday.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group